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Bridging the Gap: How to Communicate Complex Tech Ideas to Non-Technical Audiences

Bridging the Gap: How to Communicate Complex Tech Ideas to Non-Technical Audiences
Photo by Ilyass SEDDOUG / Unsplash

So, you have a killer feature or an amazing idea for your company, but explaining it to your boss or the marketing team is like explaining rocket science to a 4 year old?

The struggle is real. Throughout my career, I have experienced this myself, I have witnessed great engineers struggle to explain an idea to someone non-technical or even to a tech executive and I have also witnessed great people doing it seamlessly.

It’s something that even more experienced engineers can struggle with. I remember having conversations with director-level ICs where they said “It would be much easier to just trust us to do the work”. It would probably be easier to move forward, not necessarily in the direction the company needs, though.

So, today I give some tips to reduce the tech talk gap and ensure everyone’s on the same page.

Ditch the jargon

We engineers love our acronyms and technical terms, but to the uninitiated, they sound like gibberish. Instead of “API integration,” explain it as “connecting our app to other services.”

Think of analogies

People understand everyday things. Explain a complex topic by comparing it to a recipe or a decision tree. For instance, to explain how a firewall works we can use something like “think of a security at a nightclub. The security guard checks people and allows only guests with invitation to enter the club. Similarly, the firewall checks incoming data (people) and only allows authorized data (guests with invitation) to enter the network (club)”.

Focus on Benefits, Not Mechanics

Your audience doesn’t care how the internals work, they care about where it takes them. Explain the “what” and “why” of your tech concept. Instead of “We’re implementing a new caching system,” say “This will make the app load lightning fast, giving users a smoother experience.”

Keep it Simple (and Short)

Attention spans are limited, especially for executives. Avoid too much information. Break down complex concepts into manageable pieces and concentrate on the most important lessons.

Check for Understanding

Communication is a two-way street. Don’t just deliver the message, have a conversation with them. Leverage visual support like flowcharts or other diagrams and ask questions to ensure your message is being received. If they look at you like you’re an ET, you may need to adapt your approach.

Bonus tip: Tailor your message to the audience.

If you are explaining adding a caching system to a product manager, you may want to highlight the smother user experience and higher conversation rates. Explaining the same topic to someone from finance, you may want to highlight the cost savings and the revenue growth of this solution.